For most Americans, the war the United States waged in the Pacific in the Second World War was one fought primarily by the Navy and the Marine Corps. As John C. McManus demonstrates in Fire and Fortitude: The US Army in the Pacific War, 1941-1943
(Dutton Caliber), however, this obscures the considerable role played by the soldiers of the United States Army in the conflict throughout the region.
Their presence there was one that predated the outbreak of hostilities, as the Army had stationed divisions and regiments throughout the Pacific and eastern Asia for decades. These men and women were among the first to confront the Japanese military onslaught, most notably in the Philippines where American forces waged a credible defense against the Japanese invasion of Luzon before they were ground down by disease and a lack of supplies.
In the aftermath of this defeat, the Army mounted a series of campaigns across the breadth of the region. McManus describes these wide-ranging efforts, from Joseph Stilwell’s mission to aid the Chinese to the campaigns waged in New Guinea, Guadalcanal, and Attu against the Japanese forces on those islands.
He also details the enormous build-up in men and materiel in places as far apart as Australia and Alaska, where American servicemen often found themselves coping with forbidding environments and cultural differences. By the time the 27th Infantry Division assaulted Makin Island in November 1943, though, the Army had found its footing in the Pacific War, and was well on its way towards defeating the Japanese empire.
John C. McManus
is an award-winning professor, author, and military historian, and a leading expert on the history of the American combat experience. He is the Curators' Distinguished Professor of U.S. Military History at Missouri University of Science and Technology, and recently completed a visiting professorship at the U.S. Naval Academy as the Leo A. Shifrin Chair of Naval and Military History.